Mitt Romney in a Time interview stated that the Obama team “is off to a rocky start.” Indeed. He gave his diagnosis:
The cabinet appointments have been subject to a disappointing vetting process. His forays into foreign affairs produced a very unfortunate comment that America has been “dictating” to other nations.
And rather than proposing and driving through Congress his own economic stimulus plan, President Obama ceded the construction to House Democrats. They in turn have come up with a pork-laden, ineffective piece of legislation which I think Americans are increasingly recognizing will not solve the economic challenges we face.
And he revealed he is writing a book. Hmm, sounds like 2012 is coming sooner than we thought.
If that “rocky” start keeps up, it may change the calculus of a lot of Republican presidential contenders. If Obama is going to be the political colossus many pundits had feared, then 2012 might be a “sit back and wait year” — a cycle ambitious GOP contenders might forgo in hopes of saving their political capital to run against a non-incumbent in 2016. But if Obama is going to be this ineffectual and pursue such unpopular policies in the next four years — those are two very big if’s — then maybe 2012 is looking like 1992 or 1980, an opportunity to knock off a less than impressive incumbent president.
There is a skill to the positioning. You want to be in the limelight, but not wear out your welcome. You want to appear serious and sober, not peevish (Mike Huckabee) or consumed with past slights (Sarah Palin). You want to be critical, but not overtly partisan. The more you see presidential contenders writing books, offering analysis, forming PAC’s, traveling overseas, and popping up on national shows far from their home bases, the more you will know that the wheels are turning: “Could 2012 be a good year? Maybe I don’t have to wait until ’16.”
One thing we know for sure — hopefuls can save a lot of time and money by not formally organizing and campaigning until 2011. Early expenditures proved relatively inconsequential in the 2008 race. But it doesn’t mean the 2012 crop will go unnoticed. Hardly — they are all going to be coming out of the woodwork if Obama’s travails keep up.